Extreme focal lengths!

at1981at1981 Posts: 5Member
edited March 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras

What solution do you recommend if you want good sharpness of distant objects?
--- For example, if I'm standing on a high mountain and see a building 10 kilmeter away.

If I want to have as long a focal length as possible without good image quality. What do you recommend then?
--- For example, if I want to shoot the moon or an airplane high above the ground.

Which of the following two options do you think provides the best picture results in addition to a real camera lens that is always the best?
A. Spotting Scope with such 1750mm f/21. (85-VR)
B. Bright telescope with a long focal length, for example, 3000mm f/11, 5 (Vixen telescope)


  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited March 2013
    Once you spend the $5,000 and more for the telescope and mount you will discover something interesting. At these magnifications, the shutter speed will have to be very fast, i.e. 1/2000th second or 1/4000 second to avoid the vibrations present. It may be possible to do it slightly slower, but doubtful IMO. This means for the moon, and ISO of 3,000-6,000. And, I do not believe the telescopes for visual use have the optics necessary for superb photos.

    And, once you have gotten this all set up on the building 10 kilometers (6 miles) away, the atmospheric conditions will create problems you cannot imagine.

    For your perusal, two airplanes 40 miles away, 800mm on full frame.

    Airplane at 2-3 miles away

    And a 600mm equivalent on full frame (400mm on crop sensor)
    The car, if you can see it is about 2 miles away, best guess. This is from 14,000 feet (4300 meters) elevation, much less atmospheric disturbance.

    My suggestion, if you really want to shoot long... 600mm f/5.6, TC20EIII, crop sensor, gives you 1800mm....manual focus or with a D4. Of course, the new 800mm.....

    Let's see what others have to say.

    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Instead of DSLR you could look for mirrorless cam and adapt it to a telescope you already seem to own. Smaller and lighter shutters will cause less vibrations than DSLR full frame.

    Atmospheric conditions to see a house well over 10 km? I live in a region with lots of wind, not much dust and in springtime sometimes real good sight. But I'd guess these super conditions do happen maybe ten times a year, maybe less, so no matter how much you invest in the lens, shots like your described are a matter of good luck.

    Also, I learnt better to crop a very good tele shot than hope for good results with an "affordable" super tele wannabe glass.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,378Member
    A possible idea. Try using the D800 with the longest lens that can give you good image quality (no spotting scopes or telescopes). You want to get the best image quality in your original image which can be achieved. Then you can crop that image to achieve even more magnification. This way you can obtain an image at a size you could not shoot directly.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited March 2013
    Look at the spotters sites for aeroplanes, - high in the air - photo's.

    Here is one who put a 1.4 and 2.0 convertor together on a sigma 150-500mm Sony a77


    One Top spotter in Holland. (I don't know the altitude of the plane)

    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
    Those who say it can't be done, should not interrupt those doing it!
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,191Member
    Like JJ_SO said, you can try going mirror less. You can try the Nikon 1 cameras with the Nikkor F mount adapter and get a 2.7 crop on the focal length.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • GodlessGodless Posts: 113Member

    What solution do you recommend if you want good sharpness of distant objects?
    Get closer, shoot with a prime lens, avoid TCs longer than 1.4x, crop if necessary, sharpen in pp
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited March 2013
    @ at1981

    Look at this and see if this is sharp enough...


    D4, 400mm f/2.8 VRII, TC-20EIII, at about 12 feet subject/camera distance. The image degradation of atmospheric conditions, including dust, haze, and heat induced distortion are the issue for shooting images at a distance. One can spend $18,000 on the new 800mm f/5.6 Nikkor, yet if shooting objects at a mile away, the image will most likely be marginal at best due to the above issues.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 385Member
    Nice Msmoto!

    Denver Shooter
  • GitzoGitzo Posts: 174Member
    edited March 2013
    First of all, you need to understand a few basic things; when you speak of "distant things"; the moon is a very distant thing when compared to terrestrial objects; but there's a lot more involved in getting "sharp images" than merely the distance from the camera to the object; There are many places where you can see mountains that are 100 miles away; but just remember, there's a LOT more between your eye and that mountain than just "distance"; there is also a few millions of tons of dust and dirt, water vapor, etc. etc, and NONE of that "stuff" is transparent; even though the moon is app. 1/4 of a million miles away, about 99.9999 % of that distance is a total vacuum, and as such, is far more hospitable to light rays traveling through it, than this polluted air we're breathing is. Regardless of where you are, if you point your telescope straight up. you're attempting to "see" through app. 200 miles of atmosphere; (but only the bottom few miles have very much "pollution" which hinders light passing through it ).

    Contrary to what many may believe, it is possible to do some very nice photography with high quality spotting scopes. And you haven't mentioned what "object" you wish to photograph; a mountain ten miles away ? Depending on the weather, no problem; mountains don't move around much. but an airplane flying at 35,000 feet ? That's a whole new ball game! To start with, all airplanes that fly that high are almost sure to be jets; and they are almost sure to be flying about 500 mph; to photograph an object the size of the average airliner that is app. 7 miles away, you will need a LOT of focal length; and even Nikon's new 800 mm is going to make an image the size of an ant crawling across a beach ball ! Not to mention, have you ever attempted to "track" something that's moving 500 mph, with a 16X telescope ? Hint; you can't !

    It is relatively easy to take very sharp images of the moon, using a properly mounted small astronomical telescope, with a camera attached to it; it is much more practical when using a CCD camera designed for that purpose, ( and again, decent CCD cameras are not cheap )
    But that's getting away from the subject; what you must understand is, anytime you're photographing a very fast moving object, you MUST have the camera on some sort of a mounting that will allow you to keep the object centered in your view finder, while only moving the camera on one axis. It's completely impossible with a pan-tilt tripod head, it's almost as bad with a ball head, and can only be accomplished successfully with a gimbal head.

    The sky, from east to west is 180 degrees.
    The diameter of the moon is only half of one of those degrees; when you are watching the moon, it "seems" to be slowly moving across the sky; actually, it's YOU that's "moving", because you're standing on a huge, 8,000 mile dia. "sphere", which is rotating "the other way", which makes it look like the moon is moving, and you're not; the average small telescope may have a "field of view" of something like 3, 4, maybe 5 degrees; even as far away as the moon is, it's very difficult to find it without a small, very low power, wide field, "finder scope" attached to it; trying to "find" an airplane, which is only 7 miles away, is nearly impossible ! and even if you do "find" it, it will be gone in an instant; because you have no means of tracking such a small object, moving that fast, that is that close. When it come to telescopes, the telescope is only half of what you need; the mounting is every bit as essential as the telescope is. You can buy a very nice small "compound" telescope with a remarkably accurate mounting and drive for less than $2,000; it will be just great for observing the moon, all of the larger planets, and even some of the stars; but it will completely useless for trying to photograph an airplane that is only 7 miles away !
    You can see lots of pictures on the internet of an airliner flying in front of the full moon; I can tell you this; almost every one of those pictures was taken by a camera mounted on the side of a small telescope, the telescope was "aimed" at the moon, the drive was "set", so the telescope was tracking the moon, and about once every few years, the guy doing this "gets lucky" sees an airplane between the scope and the moon, and quickly gets "the shot" ! There have even been a number of extremely bright young telescope "devotees" who have figured out a way to actually "track" such things as the I.S.S. as it "zips" across the sky at 18,000 mph, and a few have been able to get very recognizable images of it ! But please....don't ask me how they did it! I can only guess that it's because they're a whole lot smarter than I am, because I was never even able to see the thing, much less get a picture off it. I better shut up now, or Msmoto will think I'm writing a book.
    Post edited by Gitzo on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited March 2013
    Oh...another LOL thread.....I tried to shoot the ISS with 800mm and what I got was a white fur ball .... :))
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • GitzoGitzo Posts: 174Member
    Yep, it's pretty tough trying to take a picture of something that's 3-4 hundred miles away that's going 17,600 mph ! That's like the folks at a big Nascar race trying to shoots those guys coming out of turn 4 with their little P&S flashes !
  • at1981at1981 Posts: 5Member
    Hi there!

    Which lens do you think is the best of them?
    (One advantage is if these are compatible with the TC-E III (2x))

    A: Nikon 200-400mm (The next most expensive)
    B: Nikon 600mm Expensive)
    C: Sigma 300-800mm (next cheapest)
    D: Sigma 800mm (Cheapest)

    Motivate gladly led response :).

    Zoom lens A + C is the more flexible than fixed focal length (B + D). The fixed focal length may have much better picture clarity than the zoom.

    Nikon 800mm will surely be light years far more expensive than these four lenses I have presented here above, but we are still, however, be by far the best but not easy on my wallet unfortunately.

    Thanks in advance!
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Best or more versatile? At this level the 600mm f/4 is most likely the sharpest...but the 800mm f/5.6 Nikkor is the one to go for if you want the ultimate. My guess is the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 w/ the TC-20EIII is close to the Sigma 800mm or better. I also think for a "super telephoto" the 400mm f/2.8 has more versatility than all but the 200-400mm Nikkor.

    See my image above...
    Msmoto, mod
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 385Member
    Was out shooting at the Audubon Rookery yesterday in Venice, FL and found I needed to use my Nikon 600mm F/4 with the TC20E III teleconverter (1200 mm F/8) on my D800E to "fill the frame"..

    Used the same setup at the Ding Darling NWR in FL to shoot nesting Osprey (adult with 2 chicks).

    Denver Shooter
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